Welcome to Tumnus’s Book Shelf where we review any and all books related to Narnia and CS Lewis! For this weeks review, we will be looking at CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle !
Book Title:The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle
Author: CS Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes
Summary of the book:
Some Possible Spoilers.( Please Highlight to read)
In the Last Days of Narnia, near what was known as Caldron Pool, there was an ape named Shift. Shift was a conniving, deceptive, manipulative creature who had only one friend in the world: a sweet, good natured, but gullible donkey named Puzzle. One day while the two were near the pool they saw something yellow in the water. Shift tricked Puzzle into going into the water to get it. They found it was a lion skin. Shift made the lion skin into a coat and told Puzzle to wear it. The ape told him he looked like Aslan.
Sometime later King Tirian and his unicorn, Jewel, were out at a hunting lodge when Roonwit the Centaur came to report to them some news he heard. It appeared Aslan had come to Narnia and many animals were being taken away to Colarman and many forests were being cut down. Aslan was said to be holding court at a stable on a hill. Tirian and Jewel believed what was happening to the animals and the forest was Aslan’s doing. However Roonwit said that there were no signs to proceed this.
Just then a dryad ran up to them, asking for help. She suddenly fell to the ground and vanished as her tree had been cut down. They sent Roonwit back to Cair Paravel to assemble the soldiers of Narnia while the two of them went to the stable on a hill to inspect the rumors.
They arrived and saw Shift and the Colarmans watching over everything. The Ape made a claim that he was not an ape but a very old man and that Aslan and Tash were one. He also claimed that what was happening to the creatures of Narnia was because they had all been being very bad. Later they watched as they brought out Puzzle and saw that it is not a lion at all but a donkey.
Tirian and Jewel attempt to interrupt and tell everyone that Shift was an Ape and “Tashlan” as they call him, was a donkey. Shift dismissed both of them as liars and said if they were not arrested then “Tashlan” would poor out his wrath on Narnia. Tirian and Jewel are taken away.
Some kind creatures came to visit him. Tirian told them to head south and as they were “gnawers and nibblers” ( such as mice, rabbits and rats) to free the wild talking horses of Narnia and send them North.
While he was tied up to a tree, Tirian called out to Aslan for help and pleaded with them to send the children from our world. Tirian soon had a vision. In it he saw four men and three women sitting around a table. One of the men stood up and recognized Tirian was from Narnia. The man said he was King Peter and in the name of Aslan, Tirian must speak.
Tirian vanished from our world and back into Narnia. Moments later Eustace and Jill arrived. Eustace untied the King and they explained how after he appeared, “The Friends of Narnia” or Diggory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Jill, realized there was trouble in Narnia. They decided to send Eustace and Jill with the magic rings into Narnia, which Peter and Edmund went to retrieve.
Somehow Eustace and Jill ended up in Narnia before ever meeting up with the others at a rail way station, as just when their train was pulling in they heard a loud crash. Then they found themselves in Narnia.
The three of them went to a citadel that Tirian knew of and disguised themselves so they could sneak up to the hill. Eustace and Tirian rescued Jewel the Unicorn while Jill snuck off and freed Puzzle. They discovered the donkey was doing all of this against his will. They left the hill and hid to make further plans.
While they were hiding, they heard a sound of thunder and saw smoke in the distance. They looked and saw Tash was coming into Narnia and heading for the stable. He had been called into Narnia and now he was coming.
Along the way they freed some dwarves who refused to join them except for one, named Poggin. SPOILERS! Farsight the Eagle found them and gave them some terrible news. Cair Paravel was destroyed, and all reinforcements they could expect were either slaves in Colarman or killed in battle. Narnia had fallen.
The King told the children they could leave, but they refused for two reasons. First they wanted to help defeat the ape, and second they couldn’t return on their own. Only Aslan could do that. The children had no choice but to help him fight the final battle of Narnia.END SPOILERS!
They went to the hill where Shift was already putting a spin on everything that happened. He told them that Tirian and his friends had dressed up the donkey to deceive every one and Tashlan was still in the stable. SPOILERS! A cat that was on their side went in to see this, and returned scared, and what is more, this cat was a no longer able to speak , just as Aslan told them when he created them.END SPOILERS!
Then a Colarman named Emeth entered the stable. Moments later the door burst open and another Colarman who had also been in the stable fell down dead, and Shift claimed it was Emeth. Tirian and his small band fell upon them and told the truth about what the ape was doing. Several dogs, a wild boar and a bear joined Tirian’s side and a battle was fought.SPOILERS! Tirian and Eustace threw Shift into the Stable.
Some dwarves joined the fight but were unallied. They not only shot at the Colarmans, but shot at the band of horses that were coming to help the heroes. Jill watched in horror as Eustace was captured by the army of Rishda Tarkaan of Colarman and thrown into the stable to be fed to Tash. The dwarves had also been captured and thrown in the stable.
At the end of the battle the remaining heroes were captured. Tarkaan declared that if the animals gave themselves willingly they would live , as only Jill, Farsight, and Tirian would be given as sacrifices to Tash. They refused to surrender and continued to fight the Colarmans. As Tirian fought he watched as Jill was thrown into the stable. Jewel the unicorn was killed as well.
Then Tirian had an idea. He grabbed the Tarkaan and dragged him along to the stable door and flung themselves in and closed the door behind them. Tirian watched as Tash devoured the Tarkaan with one peck and then turned his attention to Tirian.
Suddenly a voice declared in the name of Aslan that Tash be gone. The creature vanished. Tirian turned and saw a nobly dressed man behind him. Next to him he saw two younger people who were Eustace and Jill. They introduced the other people who were with them. It was Diggory, Polly, Peter, Edmund and Lucy.
Tirian asked where Susan was. Peter told him that his sister was “no longer a friend of Narnia” She had stopped believing as she had been more concerned with the pursuit of vanity and worldly pleasures. Then they told him how they came into the world behind the stable and how they watched as Tash devoured the ape.
Lucy also tells them how she attempted to make friends with the dwarves. They went to them and tried to get them to see. All the dwarves could see was the cold dark stable. Aslan appeared to them. He commended Tirian for standing firm to the end. Lucy asked Aslan to help make the dwarves believe. He explained that dwarves could not believe as the were so hurt by the deception of Shift that they refused to ever believe again.
Then Aslan told them he had other work to do. He opened the door and they heard him yell out the word “TIME!” They watched as a giant shape appeared. Eustace and Jill recognized it as the Giant Father Time they saw in the Underworld. Time blew his horn and the stars began to rain down upon Narnia. The stars burnt all the grass.
They watched as many creatures of Narnia, both human, Marshwiggle, Dufflepod, dwarf and animal ran for the door. Those that looked at Aslan with contempt went to the left and vanished in his shadow. Those with love went to his right and entered the door. Among those that entered were Poggin the dwarf, Jewel the unicorn, Roonwit the Centaur, the dogs, horses, the boar, the bear and Farsight the Eagle all who were brought back to life by Aslan.
Then dragons came up from the earth and devoured the rest of the plants on Narnia. Then the dragons died and withered. The rivers, lakes and seas of Narnia flooded over and the land was covered with water. The sun rose up and they saw that it was red. Time put out the sun and the world of Narnia was over.
Then Aslan told Peter to shut the door and lock it. After he had done this, Aslan told them to follow him. Lucy, Jill, Diggory, and Tirian mourned the loss of Narnia. As they were following Aslan they see Emeth. He had been saved! It was revealed to them that when he arrived in the door he meet Aslan. Instantly upon the meeting he realized he was seeking him all along. Aslan forgave him his wrongs and welcomed him in his kingdom.
As they continued following Aslan they saw many thing that they recognized from Narnia, except it was larger and grander then before. Peter, Edmund and Lucy were surprised by this as the thought it was all destroyed and they were told they could never return. Diggory explained that what they saw destroyed was merely a copy or a shadow, and that was the land they couldn’t return to. They could however go to Aslan’s true kingdom.
They arrived at a hill with a great gate in front of it. The gate opened and Reepicheep came out to greet them. Peter, Edmund and Lucy ran to hug their old friend. Tirian was greeted by his father and Jewel watched as Polly and Diggory were reunited with Fledge.
Then more old friends came to greet them such as Puddelglum, Rillian, Caspian, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and Mr. Tumnus the Faun. Last of all King Frank and Queen Helen came to see them all. Then Aslan beckoned them all to enter in.
Lucy spent some time catching up with Tumnus. As they were talking Peter and Edmund called them over to see something. It was their parents, and the Professor’s old house where their adventures first began and even all of England. They were surprised to see the house as it had been destroyed some time ago. Tumnus told them that in Aslan’s kingdom nothing good was ever destroyed.
Aslan comes to them and notices they seem sad. They tell him they are afraid of being sent back. He tells them that won’t happen. There was an accident on the rail road near the station. He explained to them, “All of you, and your parents are as they call it-in the Shadow-lands-dead. The term had ended, the holidays have begun. The dream is over. This is the morning.”
The real adventures for the Pevensies and their friends had only just begun. They had a brand new world in which.END SPOILERS! they all lived happily ever after.
It would not be presumptuous to assume that the late 20th Century would probably be best known for it’s apocalyptic films and books as it was drawing close to the dawn of not only a new century but the new millennium. However, long before the summers were filled with films about meteors, aliens and killer ice storms destroying the world (or all three at the same time), and before Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins set the publishing world ablaze with the Left Behind series, CS Lewis wrote what could be called not only one of the first, but possibly the best work of apocalyptic themed literature in the final installment of his Narnia series, called The Last Battle. And in a children’s book, none the less!
Such stories can often be difficult to tell the right way, especially if using Biblical imagery. However one of the things that makes The Last Battle so extraordinary is where it is set. The language in Apocalyptic literature is at times very abstract and can be highly symbolic and depict many images that are difficult to decipher. How better to handle it than in a fantasy world where animals talk, the world is flat and stars already come down from the heavens? The realms of sci-fi, fantasy and even comic books, are best suited for it as they also deal in abstraction and can be symbolic at times of other things and contain many difficult images.
Because of this,The Last Battle steers clear of the debatable aspects of eschatology, such as the rapture, the millennium, the identity of the Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, or if America is Babylon the Great, and performs the same function as the Biblical book of Revelation. It lets us know that in the end, when all is said and done, the King will return, and good will triumph over evil once and for all.
Unlike the rest of the books in the Narnia series, ( save The Horse and His Boy) we do not begin our story in our world. We begin it in Narnia. We also have one of the few times in which some one from Narnia enters our world ( the other being when Caspian and Aslan helped Eustace and Jill teach the bullies at school some well deserved lessons.)
Also unlike the other books there are very few parallels with other literary works in this story. It draws specifically from the imagery of the Bible, in particular in images and language found in many prophetic books of the Bible such as Daniel, Revelation and even the sayings and teachings of Jesus. It is also one of the three most “allegorical” stories in the series, after The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and The Magician’s Nephew.
In this book we meet Tirian, the last king of Narnia and his friend Jewel the unicorn. Tirian is someone who wishes to fight for his faith and his beliefs in a time that they are all abandoned. He and the unicorn, stand for those of the faithful who will hold on to the end.
There is also Roonwit the Centaur,SPOILERS! who serves as a prophet for what is to come and try to tell others of the truth and warn them of the coming danger. Notably, much like the prophets, even Tirian, though faithful attempts to argue with them about the message they give.END SPOILERS! Similarly, Farsight the Eagle,SPOILERS! also serves as a prophet as he is the one to bear the news of the fall of Narnia.END SPOILERS!
Eustace and Jill are back as well.SPOILERS! They are far more faithful and devoted to Aslan then in their first journeys to Narnia and have grown not just in that way but as warriors as well. They also represent those who stand firm to the end even to the point of their deaths. When they are welcomed into the world beyond the stable, they are clothed in fine garments and crowns, much as the faithful are described as receiving in the book of Revelation..END SPOILERS!
We also meet some unbelieving dwarvesSPOILERS! who have sadly been hurt so much by the deception of Shift that the refuse to believe the truth. They are much like those who refuse to believe in God after they had been deceived and tricked by false prophets and teachers.END SPOILERS!
Shift the Ape SPOILERS!is an obvious Antichrist parallel. He fits the bill not just of the kind who appear in Apocalyptic literature but various historical figures who have been seen as such a person; from Emperor Nero in the Roman Empire to Adolph Hitler. According to scriptures such people ( or Antichrists and False prophets) claim they are God Himself. Shift makes a similar false claim as he says he is a man. In Narnia it was only a Son of Adam who was appointed to be the ruler of Narnia.
Shift’s name is ironic as it is the root of the word “shifty” which was often used in literature to describe the trickster characters, most notably Loki in Norse mythology who ushered in Ragnarok through some of his own tricks and deceptions. As is typical of the Narnia stories Shift meets his end horribly ( but deservingly) as he is devoured by Tash.END SPOILERS!
Fans also get a special treat SPOILERS!as we are reunited with Diggory, Polly, Peter, Edmund and Lucy. Even though they had all grown up they still believed in Narnia and represent those who hold on to their child like faith. Further more, Peter continues to parallel the apostle Peter as Peter Pevensie is told by Aslan, to shut the door and lock it, as Christ had told Peter the Apostle “ I give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”END SPOILERS!
Saddly,SPOILERS! only one of our old friends isn’t back, and that is Susan. This is one of two points of controversy in the Last Battle. Many modern readers misread her lack of involvement in this story as Lewis’s condemnation of femininity and womanhood as she’s being described as “ caring more about lipstick and nylons and invitations.” This is a misreading of Lewis’s work.
People who have made such claims fail to notice Lucy, Polly and Jill are in the story. Lucy is by this point a teenager, and Polly an old woman who has no doubt grown up and would be very much a woman and feminine. Susan was left behind not because she was female, but because she stopped believing as she was more concerned with materialism and vanity then her beliefs. It should be noted that she never truly believed from the beginning. She was also one of the last to see Aslan in Prince Caspian.END SPOILERS!
Another point of controversySPOILERS!is that of Emeth the Colarman who is allowed into the kingdom of Aslan. Aslan allows him in despite his beliefs in Tash. Many fans take this to mean Lewis is saying that all beliefs are acceptable. This is not the case. It is revealed that Emeth was truly seeking Aslan all along. It should also be noted that when he sees Aslan he renounces his beliefs, he is in that regard like the dying thief on the cross, or any one who has what is called a “death bed conversion.” This shows that any one can be saved only if they accept the truth . Notably, Emeth’s name means “Truth” in Hebrew.END SPOILERS!
There is one final thing Lewis does that is unique to this story:SPOILERS! long before the controversy JK Rowling generated by the sheer possibility she’d kill of either Harry, Ron or Hermione in her final Harry Potter book, Lewis went all the way and allowed for Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, Jill, Diggory and Polly to die. Not many writers are willing to allow a majority of the characters, in particular the ones they love, to die. This adds a level of maturity and depth to Narnia that is missing in children’s literature as they see that people die.
This of course was something parents objected to as they thought it was too scary for children to read. However, children had no problems with it. Perhaps because Lewis, our kindly grandfather of a narrator didn’t shy away from telling us this truth about life: that there is death. It is also one of the reasons this book garnered the Carnegie award for children’s literature.END SPOILERS!
However, Lewis also gives readers a special gift in his final tale of Narnia SPOILERS! He lets us know that there is a better world for our heroes. We also get to see them reunited with many of our old friends such as Mr. Tumnus and Prince Caspian. In a way, in The Last Battle, we join them all in this reunion too.
As he tells this story, Lewis comforts us as we watch as Narnia falls and comes to it’s end. We grieve with Lucy and the others at the loss of our beloved country. We feel as though we have lost something as well. At the same time we are assured that something better lies ahead.
The possibility of the end of the world. Death. Holding on to your beliefs until the end. Those are all themes not only present in the Last Battle, those are things that children will have to face in their life times. Most of the time such books are depressing, but Lewis gives us hope by letting us know there is a better world in store, one better than Narnia or Earth.END SPOILERS!
Who can ask for better than that for our happily ever after?
Five out of Five shields